The Pink Chronicles: Jenn's Cancer Journey (part two)
It seemed so frivolous. The cancer had taken a very large part of my “womanhood” and yet I could save my hair. Beaumont had served as a test point for Penguin cold caps and maintained caps to rent during treatment. They also recommended someone who could assist with the procedure during treatment. It all seemed surreal, but I was willing to try it. There were plenty of nurse friends and those who were preparing to shave their heads, if it came down to that. After all, how could freezing the hair follicle save my hair through the toxins I was about to put through my body?
Don’t get me wrong, the process was not easy. These caps were cold, it was an instant ice-cream headache wrapped around your head. They were placed using gloves and instantly your body temperature dropped. When the first cap was placed, I was instantly reduced to tears. It was flat out freezing and the headache that came with it was literally unbearable. But it got better, and as we went throughout the day, it was easier. The caps were replaced every 25 minutes; 16 caps in total. I would spend eight hours once every three weeks at the hospital receiving my treatments and attempting to preserve my hair. I would layer up, bring blankets and drink hot chocolate. I was the only patient there that was freezing in the middle of July.
It was worth it. After the third round, we knew it was working. While I lost my eyebrows, my eyelashes and hair everywhere else (there are some benefits to this procedure) my hair remained. It did thin, and there was much I couldn’t do—no heat styling, no deodorant, no harsh shampoos or soaps, but it was worth it.
I was nearly through my chemo treatments before many people at work even knew. I looked normal, albeit exhausted. I worked throughout my treatment and set goals to get me through the challenges. I showed my horse (with the immense help of some incredible people) and when I felt well enough, I even went to the gym. Of course there were also the days where my body couldn’t function. Where I attempted to sleep but couldn’t, and where I wanted to eat but had no taste.
But then, it was over. Another reconstructive surgery was scheduled and a new day was dawning—and, for the most part, I was considered cancer free.
I still had doctor appointments, and more genetic testing. Almost a year to the day, my mother was diagnosed with non-evasive early-stage breast cancer. It opened new doors to new questions, but it never deterred my plan of action.
My doctors would say that they plan to keep me healthy, and I know that is their intent. Is it likely I will stand in this fight again? There is a strong possibility. But it has never been a battle I fought alone. I am armed with a team of incredible doctors and surgeons, remarkable friends and family, and the inspiration of hope. And hope is a very powerful thing.
Someone once said that you beat cancer in how you celebrate and live your life. Those victories reside in the every day moments. And it is true. Cancer, albeit an adversary, is really quite limited. It doesn’t defeat love, or shatter hope. It will not destroy faith or kill friendship. It cannot suppress memories or silence courage. But most of all, it cannot conquer the spirit.
At the end of the day, it is this – the infallible spirit that truly leads to victory.